Friday, April 17, 2015

Blood Orange Season at Scarlet Huntington San Francisco

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov

 
Ruby-golden on the outside and crimson-red, inclining to deep purple, on the inside, blood oranges are very special citrus fruits with tasting notes of tart raspberry and black currant. A product of natural mutation, thriving on the volcanic soils of Sicily, blood oranges acquire their maroon color from antioxidant pigments, beneficial to human health. Alas, for long periods of time in different countries people considered these precious golden orbs to be menacing defective siblings of the regular sweet oranges, and often threw them away. Thankfully, in our day and time we know better.
As opposed to Navel, Valencia, and Cara-Cara varieties, following one another for months, and therefore omnipresent all year round, blood oranges aren’t always available. Their short season ends in May, and so does the special seasonal Italian Blood Orange Sea Salt Scrub at The Nob Hill Spa at The Scarlet Huntington Hotel in San Francisco.
I indulged in this invigorating spa treatment that combines full body scrub and massage with the super-powerful mix of citrus elements – and the experience left me enlivened and energized; my skin as smooth as orange blossom petals.
Speaking of orange blossom, this is a main ingredient in the bright citrus blend used for the scrub, which also includes tangy juice and sharp spicy rinds of blood oranges, and zesty grapefruit that helps stimulate, revitalize and nourish the skin. Like spring sunlight, this amazing citrus blend uplifts the spirit and awakens the body.  In addition to the scrub, blood orange lotion and blood orange body wash are used in the course of the treatment, which ends with a cup of blood orange tea graciously delivered by your massage therapist.

The Scarlet Huntington is the only hotel in San Francisco with a full-service spa, boasting unobstructed city skyline views from a private outdoor terrace, especially desirable on sunny spring days. The Nob Hill Spa, designed by a spa visionary Sylvia Sepielli, and reviewed by a feng shui professional,  is a tranquil sanctuary inside the iconic San Francisco hotel perched atop the city’s posh Nob Hill. Since 2000, the spa has been a popular hideaway for bachelorette parties, birthdays, baby showers, client meetings, and techy retreats, offering global healing traditions interwoven with customized services. The three-level facility has ten treatment rooms, a large indoor infinity pool, a fireplace, Zen relaxation room, eucalyptus steam room, dry saunas, whirlpool and a workout room. It accommodates individuals and groups, and is open not only to the hotel guests, but to the general public as well. Not surprisingly, it continues to be a staycation destination for locals seeking an urban escape and the premier spa experience.  
Recently, the hotel introduced another unique feature – a style-forward gathering retreat – the Spa Suite. It’s an intimate venue for up to 15 people, with the main space for convening, a separate treatment room with two massage tables, and bathroom with a rain shower, a vanity mirror and a double sink. Designed for hosting a range of formal and informal parties, the Spa Suite, staffed by Nob Hill Spa therapists, offers massages, facials and body and nail treatments. Catering is provided by Big 4 Restaurant in the meeting room buffet-style or à la carte.

While the just introduced Spa Suite is still on my “to experience” list, the Big 4 Restaurant, led by the Executive Chef Kevin Scott is the place I’ll be happy to return to – for an elegant dinner, excellent service, and a slice of California history.  

A San Francisco institution, the Big 4 Restaurant on the ground floor of The Scarlet Huntington Hotel, is named after the 19th century businessmen, philanthropists, and most distinguished and talked about citizens of the city who built the Central Pacific Railroad – C. P. Huntington, Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins and Leland Stanford. These men’s life journeys from California pioneer beginnings to national importance coincided with a long and colorful era of Pacific Coast history. At the top of their careers, the “Big Four” all resided in the exquisite Nob Hill mansions, and almost daily were featured in the local press in references to their varied activities. The Big 4 Restaurant’s ambiance recaptures the era of the Big Four with opulently decorated dining room, period furnishings, antique artifacts, and celebrated original dark wood bar – a hub of the bourbon and whiskey revival.

Nearly obsessed with all things citrus by dinner time, I started my lavish meal at the Big 4 with Bitter Delight – a blood orange-colored cocktail made of Campari, Combier, fresh grapefruit, and prosecco. It was followed by seared foie gras (thank you, California, for bringing this delicacy back!) garnished with mache, port cherries, toasted pistachios and brioche.

Perfectly grilled Berkshire pork chop came with a side of roasted root vegetables in cider sauce.

For dessert, I ordered the seasonal panna cotta Milano with Campari gelee, shortbread cookie, and of course, a slice of candied orange.
Owned and managed by Singapore-based hospitality group Grace International, the renovated and reimagined Scarlet Huntington seamlessly unites tradition and contemporary style with a distinct blend of refinement, relaxation and pure luxury.

The red brick façade, the cable cars passing by, and the famed illuminated sign atop the hotel remain the historical references unchanged with time, as well as the structure, the original woodwork and crown moldings in the hallways, and the 1924 gold leaf ceiling in the former Mr. Huntington’s apartment.

However, new Singapore Straits Chinese-inspired interior design elements and a provocative use of color are present in all 134 spacious rooms – a fusion of classic grace and global influences that stirs the imagination.
The four room types – Superior, Deluxe, Executive and Premium, 34 one-bedroom suites, and three signature suites – Opulent, Passion and Mulholland, delight visitors with a sense of elegance and brightness. Our one-bedroom suite was positively vibrant with the abundance of natural light, avant-garde furnishings, plush pillows, heavy two-tone curtains, and crystal chandeliers.

I appreciated double-pane windows that opened for fresh Pacific air, as well as central air conditioning.

In our quiet bedroom, high above the hustle and bustle of the city, an elaborate gilded headboard, snow-white bedding, and pillow-top mattress promised undisturbed night sleep.

Lavish bathroom amenities included soft robes, a deluxe rain shower, hand-carved vanity, a lighted mirror, and L’Occitane bath products.
As Gail Isono, The Scarlett Huntington General Manager put it, “The fusion of different cultures is part of what makes San Francisco so alive; that spirit is on bold display at The Scarlet Huntington. As a new generation discovers the vibrancy of the city and the mystique of Nob Hill, the hotel is experiencing a renaissance as an intimate home away from home, where elegant tradition meets modern comfort.”
The hotel’s positioning grants easy access to the city’s famed cable cars and a short walk to Union Square, Financial District, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Ferry Building.

The concierge desk is open from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily to help guests discover the charms of San Francisco. The Italian Blood Orange Sea Salt Scrub lasts 50 minutes and is $140. The Spa Suite is available for small groups by reservation only from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily. Big 4 is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Room service is available for guests from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. from the restaurant.
The Scarlet Huntington is located at 1075 California St., San Francisco, CA 94108; 415-474-5400; www.thescarlethotels.com/sf.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Jeanne D'Arc Restaurant in San Francisco: the Essential French

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov

 
  

It’s a shame, but prior to my recent highly enjoyable visit to Jeanne D'Arc in the heart of San Francisco, I’ve never heard about this classy French restaurant – even though it’s been around since 1972!
I had no idea what a treasure has been hiding in the subterranean floor of a charming boutique hotel, Cornell Hotel de France (originally built in 1910) on Bush Street.  Truly a hidden gem [I know it’s a cliché, but at least the word is French] Jeanne d’Arc is serving a prix fixe menu of authentic French dishes – masterfully executed and strikingly presented. The ones I was lucky to try that night are still lingering in my gustatory memory…

In a true French tradition, the 50-seat white-tablecloth restaurant offers an extensive wine list to complement the delectable food. It includes all the aperitif staples, and more than 75 French and California vintages representing the major winegrowing regions.

“The Maid of Orléans” makes appearance in a number of art forms in and around the dining room. There are human-height sculptures of the beloved French warrior/saint; a stained glass window from Chartres; wall murals, paintings, etchings, and vintage posters – one of them depicting the great Belle Époque actress Sarah Bernhard in the role of Jeanne d’Arc.

Other period artifacts, like tapestries, crests, armor, weaponry, clocks, household and farming items, and meticulously hand-painted wall ornaments – add to the very special atmosphere of this place – artful and elegant, and as the hotel and restaurant’s owner Claude Lambert puts it, “Like in France… 50 years ago!”   

Freshly-cut roses of the fragrant, locally grown garden kind on every table, and quiet prompt service make the food and wine experience at Jeanne d’Arc perfectly complete.  
The very reasonably priced four-course menu is prepared by Chef Luc Pouget, originally from Paris, who used to work for several notable establishments before joining his compatriot M Lambert (originally from Orléans) in this exquisite eatery.  

On the night we dined, the soup of the day was Soupe Parisienne (leek and potato puree), and the daily changing salads included two little masterpieces – beautiful to behold and delicious to consume – Salade des Iles du Sud (layered mango, shrimp, avocado) and Salade du Baron de Siorac (mixed greens with blue cheese, glazed pear and walnuts).    

Out of 10 tempting entrees my husband picked Magret de Canard de Provence (roast duck breast with lavender sauce) and I indulged in my favorite delicate tender Lapin Chasseur (rabbit cooked in white wine with mushrooms and herbs). Both entrees were served with a combination garnish of Gratin Dauphinois (potatoes au gratin), Haricots Verts (green beans sautéed with shallots), and Carottes Glacees (glazed carrots). I don’t think there was anything left on my plate but well-cleaned tiny bones after I was done with all this fabulousness.

A bottle of gorgeous garnet-red 2009 Clos des Menuts, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – full-bodied and fruit-forward, with aromas of ripe red berries – made a perfect pairing to both game dishes.

M Lambert, who personally made sure every single guest in his restaurant was well taken care of and exceedingly happy, suggested we order two different desserts, and we did.  

Mere words cannot describe the airiness, the subtle sweetness, and the heavenly indulgence of Soufflé au Grand Marnier supplemented with vanilla and Grand Marnier cream sauce generously poured into its hot-from-the-oven core.
The French strawberry cream cake Fraisier was chilled and airy, seasonally fresh, and thoroughly indulgent as well.

In the course of our dinner, while chatting with M Lambert, I found out that he first arrived here more than four decades ago with his wife and young daughter for the opening of Lycée Français de San Francisco, where he was teaching French. Taking over a then dilapidated historical property, he transformed it into a landmark boutique hotel with the excellent French restaurant – well known and cherished by some, and yet to be happily discovered by others.

Jeanne d'Arc Restaurant is located at 715 Bush Street, between Mason and Powell Streets, in San Francisco, California. The restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. For more information and reservations call (415) 421-3154 or visit: www.restaurantjeannedarc.com

Friday, April 3, 2015

E&O Kitchen and Bar: Exploring the Asian Spice Route

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
 
It’s that time of year again. Time to think of summer travels. But what if you live in the world’s prime travel destination, like San Francisco, and don’t really need to go anywhere to be inspired, to get excited, and to feel amazed, amused, and inexplicably happy?  

For that there is E&O – a beloved Asian cuisine restaurant in the heart of the city. It invites you on a culinary journey and engages all your senses with enticing month to month travel through the spices of China and India, Thailand and Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.
April through September, the E&O acclaimed Executive Chef Sharon Nahm, and kitchen and bar team members pay homage to the ancient Asian trade route by picking a specific spice each month and implementing it in a savory dish, a sweet treat, and a delectable cocktail.

April journey starts with chilies in three new offerings, inspired by the traditions of Sichuan province (China). The savory dish for this month is Firecracker Chicken: dry fried marinated chicken breast with chilies, peppers, scallions, and fresh cilantro. While the chicken is outright delicious it’s not advisable to try and eat one of the many tiny red peppers that fill the plate.

The sweet is “Hot” Fudge Sundae: spiced chocolate sauce, caramel and vanilla ice cream, with chili cocoa almonds. It’s an amazing combination of everything you love about desert, and it’s so mildly sweet and richly textured it can be consumed on its own as a mini meal.

The drink is Chili Tamarind Margarita: Corralejo tequila, spicy agave syrup, lime, tamarind, citrus, and chili salt rim. This amazingly light and refreshing cocktail was created by the E&O Assistant General Manager Marcelle Gonzales.

Of course, all the E&O monthly specials from the Spice Route are available in addition to the regular menu, and why don’t we proceed to that – an overflowing list of perennially popular delights…

On a Small plates section of the menu there are quite a few favorites. Coconut curry ceviche arrives in a half coconut “bowl” filled with a creamy mixture of local white fish, green curry, chilies, bell peppers, and fresh herbs. It’s served with house-made taro chips.

Indonesian corn fritters with sweet tangy soy sauce are crunchy, crispy, and comforting – with whole kernels and scallions adding extra texture. Your server will proudly tell you that this is the most popular dish in the establishment, inevitably appearing on every table.

Rolls & Dumplings section of the menu contains pure treasures. One of them – delicate Butternut squash dumplings in Thai red curry lemongrass sauce and basil oil.

Among all the Salads one is especially crowd-pleasing. It’s Shaved asparagus salad with baby carrots, red radishes, avocado, togarashi (Japanese set of spices), finely grated hardboiled egg, and a refreshing creamy citrus dressing.

Between the Rice & Noodles staples there’s an outstanding dish – Braised lamb noodle made with hand-cut tender noodles and finished with star anise, cumin, chilies, and pea shoots.

On Meat & Seafood menu everyone’s first choice is Wood roasted char siu black cod – an incredibly tasteful fish – on a bed of sautéed water spinach.

The Sides at E&O are not an afterthought. Roasted eggplant is a flavorful dish in its own right with tofu, Thai basil, chilies, and dark soy.

The upcoming spices in the following months will be: May – coriander, June – bay leaf, July – peppercorns, August – fennel seed, and September – cinnamon.

It’s hard to name another restaurant and bar quite like E&O – with its spacious yet cozy dining room, intriguingly lit bar area, special event upstairs facility, exhibition kitchen, and intimate booths and tables for two. Add to it always welcoming staff from the hostess stand to the bar to the kitchen counter; excellent service; and perfectly spiced food – for this summer staycation E&O is the place to be!

E&O Kitchen and Bar is located at 314 Sutter St., San Francisco. Call 415-693-0303 or visit www.eosanfrancisco.com.

Schroeder’s San Francisco: The Best Power Lunch in Town

By Emma Krasov

 
Recently renovated and modernized, and ever popular Schroeder’s – a German restaurant in San Francisco’s Financial District – now redefines “power lunch.” It’s not a game of influences among business partners or counterparts any more. In Schroeder’s Power Lunch everyone’s a winner.

In this historical beer hall decorated with playful murals and commemorative beer steins, and furnished with stylish and comfortable contemporary wooden tables under gigantic cartwheel chandeliers, a three-course solid meal isn’t just midday fuel. Chef Manfred Wremble and his culinary team turn it into a gourmet affair, masterfully executed and attractively priced.
The $25 pre-fixe lunch includes choice of soup or salad, three top-notch entrees to choose from, and a Chef’s daily cookie. Here’s the menu:

STARTER (choice of)
·         Wild Arugula Salad – avocado, radish, buttermilk dressing
·         Soup of the Day (always market fresh – can be cream of leek with dinosaur celery)

ENTRÉE (choice of)
·         Jäger Schnitzel – pork, mushrooms, spätzle or wild arugula (this reporter’s and many other people’s favorite)
·         Sauerbraten on Toast – red cabbage, grape jam, tarragon
·         Wiener Schnitzel – veal cutlet, potato salad, cucumber, dill, egg (a la Holstein $4)

DESSERT
·         Chef’s Daily Cookie (might include ginger, chocolate, peanut nougat and even caramel popcorn).
Monday BONUS: guests who order a lunch entrée will receive half off a liter of beer when they return the same day for happy hour – just bring your receipt. 
 
If you are craving something from the regular menu, it’s also available at lunch time. Praised for his German-Californian comfort food (traditional dishes, fresh seasonal ingredients) Chef Wremble is known for his spätzle with frequently changing ingredient list. At the moment, the traditional tiny pieces of cooked dough, served in a bowl, are garnished with ricotta cheese, house-cured bacon lardons, cauliflower, and hand-made herbed breadcrumbs. No matter what garnish, this “kleine” dish is sure to please – and despite its menu definition – large enough to share.  

Apfel Strudel is another tempting regular menu staple – bursting with juicy apple slices, plump golden raisins, and topped with a dollop of finger-licking caraway crème.  
Power lunches are a time-honored tradition in the city, and Schroeder’s easily takes it to the next level with generously portioned high quality food, full bar with house-made cocktails, a variety of wines and beer, and creative non-alcoholic beverages. Adding to the restaurant’s appeal, always friendly, smiling, and highly efficient service will help you enjoy the most delicious lunch in town – and be done with it within your lunch hour.  
Schroeder’s is located at 240 Front St, San Francisco, CA 94111 and open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 to 2:30. Call 415-421-4778 or visit: www.schroederssf.com.
Images: courtesy Schroeder’s.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Gourmet Lunch News: LB Steak Goes Burger

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov

 
LB Steak in Menlo Park, a posh modern steakhouse with traditional dark wood furnishings and brown leather banquettes now offers a fast yet sophisticated lunch-time alternative to its prime product usually enjoyed in an unhurried environment of a leisurely dinner.

The steak is still there, but in a streamlined form of a steak-burger, created by the restaurant’s Chef de Cuisine Kelsey Casavan and her culinary team. Every morning Tuesday through Saturday, the chef hand cuts a selection of house-aged New York, rib eye, and tenderloin steaks, creating a proprietary blend that is ground in-house and formed into flavorful, high quality LB steak-burgers, grilled to perfect medium and adorned with various garnishes.  

If Chef Casavan looks like a graceful ballerina to you that’s because she is. A professional dancer turned a distinguished chef approaches her responsibilities with dedication and discipline required in both occupations. Previously a Lead Cook at Left Bank Brasserie in Larkspur, California, she had the opportunity to work with Chef Passot, Master French Chef Joel Guillon, and Chef de Cuisine Fabrice Marcon, learning from the best and gaining her hands-on experience on the job.

The LB steak-burger menu includes two fast favorites – The Steakhouse (LB Steak sauce, sautéed mushrooms, cheddar, onion rings) – elegantly simple and highly satisfying, and The Black and Blue (Bay Blue cheese, Cajun blackening, caramelized onions, arugula) – a deliciously messy, cheesy and overall highly enjoyable construction.  

Also available for lunch – The Classic (house American cheese, red onion, tomato, shredded lettuce, pickle, aïoli); The Bespoke (shredded lettuce, arugula, tomato, pickle, red onion, aïoli, any two add ons); The Hapa (teriyaki glaze, grilled pineapple, cheddar, house kimchi ketchup, green onion); The Baja (avocado, pepper jack, green chilies, shredded lettuce, tomato, red onion); and add-ons (bacon, sunny side up egg, cheddar, Bay blue cheese, house American, pepper jack, caramelized onions, avocado, sautéed mushrooms and green chilies) to customize any burger to diners’ preferences.

All burgers are offered with a choice of French fries, onion rings or a mixed green salad, plus any version of a burger can be prepared as a grilled chicken sandwich.

LB Steak’s full bar is available at lunch time, as well as milkshakes, floats with vanilla ice cream, and soft drinks, among them – a wonderful house-made ginger beer with a distinct kick.  

LB steak-burger lunch is served Tuesday through Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
LB Steak Menlo Park is located at 898 Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park, California. The restaurant is open nightly for dinner. More information and reservations at (650) 321-8980 or www.lbsteak.com.